Author : Lloyd Grey
The sun is descending over the Olympic Mountains, and the world is about to end.
Patrick Xu is standing in a monorail station, somewhere in Downtown Seattle, calmly sipping water and watching the peak of Mt. Rainier collapse, flowing north into the Puyallup. A column, the colour of a faraway raincloud, blows upward like the breath of some subterranean giant. The aftershocks rattle deep within his bones – he knows, on an intellectual level, that the building could survive a tremor a thousand times larger, but he still braces for collapse. He remembers hearing about Mt. Saint Helens about four decades previously, back when he was in high school. He remembers being surprised it stuck.
Then it’s all over – the shaking, the eruption, the flashes of cameras. The whole world stops dead in its tracks, for an eyeblink, and changes. The mountain rebuilds itself in the distance. Around him, the people change. Some disappear from the deck, others appear out of thin air. A few merely change clothes or hairstyles.
It had started back when he was a kid. Things would randomly change around him – room layout, names. The most jarring is when he gained or lost siblings, and the worst was when it stuck. He certainly missed Bradley and Sarah.
On impulse, he pulled his phone out of his pocket, nearly dropping it before adjusting to the new centre of gravity. Scrolling through the contacts, he didn’t notice anything new of importance.
Dimly, in the background, he heard noises quiet down. Consciously, the first thing he noticed was their reflection in the glass. Two suit-and-sunglass-clad men approached him, one saying, “Mr. Xu, you should come with us.”
The first time they’d tried that, he’d said yes. He didn’t intend to repeat that experience.
He whirled around, punched the silent one in the face, and ran through the crowd. The last thing he saw was the front of the southbound train-
The sun had set behind the Olympic Mountains, and the world had just ended. Patrick Xu descended the stairs of a monorail station somewhere in Downtown Seattle, and walked away, looking for a cab and thinking of apocalypses past.
Author : Anthony Francis
Greed never dies. It had been forty years since my consciousness graced a human body, but the attraction is irresistible, universal, born of the survival instinct, an unquenchable desire to acquire the things needed for life — and so avarice was the only desire in my cold metal heart when I fought my partner to the death.
We were archeologists, prospecting the Kuiper Belt, mining the outermost edge of the solar system, when we struck gold in the ice: a vein of alien tech, embedded in a comet, valuable enough for a new body — for only one of us. Whichever one of us made it back to the ship first could end the other — and begin a new life.
When we realized our choice, we struck out for the ship, leaping from icy rock to icy rock, fighting the whole way. We tumbled towards the ship, his aging cybernetic body grappling with my obsolete robotic one, when I hit on a desperate chance. Aiming for the airlock, I kicked away — only he had the same thought, and kicked simultaneously. We flew apart, action and reaction, Newton’s Third Law.
The ship slid between us … and we slid into the dark.
Bullets, bodies and rockets exhausted, we drifted out into the Kuiper Belt, two new comets, bodies rich with heavy metals, technology preserved for future archaeologists, faces frozen in impotent rage. But Newton’s Universal Law is an irresistible attraction, stronger than loathing — and so, every forty thousand years, gravity brings our bodies back together, the extra pinprick of sunlight reflected off his visor briefly squeezing a trickle of juice out of my solar cells, triggering for a single instant in my mind that spark I see forever frozen in his eyes.
Because hate never dies.
Author : Katherine Cowley
Amenope stood next to the river, adjusting his nets. Ra, the sun god, beat down on his brown, tanned back. A taskmaster stood nearby, making sure no one neglected their duties. And then the pharoah’s royal barge arrived. Everyone prostrated themselves on the ground as their god passed.
Once the pharaoh was out of sight, Amenope glanced at the pharoah’s boat. It was marvelous, the grandest he had ever seen. The taskmaster approached and Amenope forced his eyes back to the ground. “Don’t even think about touching it,” said the taskmaster, and gave him a sore beating, even though he hadn’t gone near the boat.
Jarl stood outside the inn, breathing the fresh air. He adjusted his conical metal helmet. Though he had actually been born in Jorvik, not far north of here, he was still considered a foreigner–the Vikings had invaded, after all.
A man rode up to the inn and gave his horse to the stable boy. The man glanced at Jarl, then told the stable boy to make sure no riffraff went near his horse. Jarl raised his eyebrows in disbelief. He didn’t even know how to mount a horse, let alone ride one.
Louis stood outside the supermarket, leaning against the wall. It was night and he was waiting. He had a hipster beard and wore a hoodie against the cold.
A frumpy woman, with her awkward teenage son in tow, approached the supermarket. She looked at Louis, then quickly glanced away. She shoved her hand into her pocket and pulled out her keys, pointing them at the parking lot. The first time she pressed the button on the remote nothing happened, so she pressed it more fiercely. This time one of the cars beeped and its lights flashed as it locked.
As the woman and her son entered the store, Louis laughed. Sure, he had a beard, but that didn’t mean he was going to steal the woman’s car.
Sayer stood in the asteroid bar, sipping a blue drink as he watched the asteroids fly past. He had chosen a blue drink because it matched his blue hair and earrings.
A young aristo walked into the bar and was seated near him. She took in Sayer’s arm tattoos and his face, then asked to be reseated. Sayer heard her whisper to the attendant about the security of the spaceships.
Sayer ground his teeth together. He was a timesoul, one of those rare few gifted with both reincarnation and the faint memory of previous experiences. He had lived a hundred lives, with different names and identities, different cultures and religions. And after a hundred lives of being misunderstood, he didn’t care anymore if his next life he came back as a goat or even a rock. Sayer waited until the aristo received her drink. Then he left the bar and stole her spaceship.
Author : Tino Didriksen
[emergency power online]
Sergeant, lock down that…wait, what’s going on? Backup neuro-simulation? So we lost, badly. But, this is supposed to bring up the ranking officer, so why am I…oh, I see…died too fast for station to scan them, and their backups are months old – doesn’t anyone follow protocol around here? Argh, might be an outer empire security station, but still…anyway, focus!
Station status. Damn, generators offline, permanently. Barely running on accumulated solar power, critical levels. Need to send message to command before those bastards move onwards. Let’s see, power up communications array…come on…nope, seems there’s just dangling wires where that used to be. Fine then, directed burst transmitter…hm, that takes a lot of power. Ok, desperate measures, taking storage offline – if this fails it won’t matter whether we keep logs or short term memory.
Right then, compose message. Imperial emergency channel. Station Willow Spiral Minor attacked by Daylight Federation forces. High probability of imminent invasion based on severity and type of damage to station. All personnel body-killed, several months of experience lost, awaiting rescue and re-cloning. Authorization and authentication, Lt. Sarah Clacher, in-sim acting commanding officer.
Align transmitter…blast, station has drifted too far off alignment. Protocol, people! Half a mind to write a sternly worded report, if I wasn’t currently without a body. Encrypt and sign message, store to transmitter…there’s a partial buffer here, mostly dissipated and corrupted. Discarding. Spool up the burst…spool up the burst…come on you old bucket of bolts…10%…20%…power dropping fast, what a hungry little thing…30%…40%…50%…oh no no no, don’t you dare run out of juice now…60%…shine brighter, dammit…70%…
[emergency power online]
Sergeant, lock down that…wait, what’s going on? …
Author : Sophia Bella
At the edge of a bright green lawn in the middle of the desert, a young woman’s chapped lips stretch to a hopeful grin as what little strength she has left is enough to get her over the fence.
No sooner do her toes reach the softness of the grass does the glow of a laser disintegrate her legs entirely, the flesh curling up to her hip as it burns like bacon in a pan.
“They’re all lookin’ fer water,” the homeowner mumbles to the titanium mutt at his side from his place on the porch. “Power ‘n water. Maybe a li’l bit’a hospitality.”
Tarry fluid dribbles onto his chin as he spits his chew beyond the railing of the porch, which goes ignored as the curved rockers of his chair sway against the wooden planks as slow and easy as the desert breeze.
“They ain’t gonna find it here.”